Monday, 17 September 2007

See Gulls

Living by the coast it is inevitable that many of the birds we see are Gulls. Most birders shudder when there is a story on the radio or in the press, as they are inevitably referred to as "seagulls", making no mention of which species are being mentioned. When you consider that there are some 60 species in the world of which 25 have occurred in Britain "seagull" doesn't really tell you much.

Herring Gulls are the common big gulls round here, and the ones that cause the most annoyance to people. This family group has an adult with two young that were still begging for food. The adult is already developing the dark steaks around the neck and head that make them much less smart in winter compared to spring.

The next most frequent is the Black-headed Gull, but by now they have lost their black heads, which they will re-acquire in spring. Above are two winter plumage adults and a bird entering its' first winter.

Recently the Mediterranean Gull has spread to England and above is a first winter "Med" with a Black-headed Gull. The adults are smart birds with all white wings.

Two other large gulls are relatively common. The Lesser Black-backed Gull is just a little smaller than the Herring Gull and has a slaty grey back and yellow legs. They are outnumbered by Herring Gulls but often form mixed flocks.

The Great Black-backed Gull is the daddy of them all! A fearsome character, quite capable of taking quite large prey, they've been known to swallow Puffins whole. They have blacker backs and pink legs are are considerably larger than the Herring Gulls.

At this time of year there are also some terns still around. These are all migratory and move south in the winter. The Sandwich Tern is the largest of our regular tern visitors and is about the size of a Black-headed Gull. It is an expert fisherman and dives into the sea from several feet up to catch its' prey.

I Haven't mentioned the gull with the misleading name of Common Gull. They are common, particularly in the north of Britain, but round here they are mainly winter visitors and as yet there are nome around St Margaret's although I have seen them elsewhere in Kent this week. I expect ours to arrive any time now.


me and my camera said...

Catchy title! Interesting post.
F. Ann

Tony Morris said...

you must like puns!